Giving credit where credit is due, I am pleased to report that voters in Allen ISD in North Texas approved an increase in their local school taxes to help rehire some teachers and help the district avoid further classroom cuts. (Actually, the Allen American did the real reporting, and I am passing it on.)
I wrote about the pending tax ratification election (TRE) in this fastgrowing, suburban Dallas district a couple of weeks ago because this is the same district that received national publicity after local voters approved a $119 million bond issue two years ago to build, among other things, a $60 million football stadium. I wondered if the same voters would be as willing to pay higher taxes for classrooms as they did for football.
Nearly 61 percent of the voters turning out in the TRE voted for a school board proposal to raise the district maintenance and operations tax rate by 13 cents, from the current $1.04 per $100 valuation to the state maximum of $1.17. Combined with the district’s 50cent tax for bonded interest, this will give local taxpayers a combined school tax rate of $1.67.
Allen ISD, which will lose $21 million in state funding over the next two years because of the budget slashing performed by Gov. Perry and the legislative majority last spring, had already taken a number of costcutting steps. They included a salary freeze, staff reductions (including 44 teachers) and larger classes.
Now, according to the local newspaper, the district plans to restore some of the lost teaching positions and reduce class sizes. Although Allen is not a plaintiff, school officials said they will keep an eye on a school finance lawsuit filed against the state this week and will continue to try to communicate with local legislators, which will be a challenging task.
All the lawmakers from Collin County, in which Allen ISD is located, voted for the state spending reductions that have put the district in such a financial bind and prompted the latest local tax increase. The county also voted 64 percent last year to reelect Gov. Perry, the chief architect of the education budget cuts.
This time, though, Allen voters got it right. They voted for classrooms, kids and teachers.